Geena Davis calls for gender equality in media

Tutawaza

The actress and activist Geena Davis denounced “stereotyped, hypersexualized” images of females in the entertainment media at a recent symposium in New York. Lori Perkovich reports.

Geena Davis, speaking at the United Nations, called for films and TV shows that show females as equals. Photo by Lori Perkovich Geena Davis, speaking at the United Nations, called for films and TV shows that show females as equals. Photo by Lori Perkovich

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Pursuit of a Master of Science in Global Affairs

As a non-traditional student, I experience many of the same things as my younger counterparts. I have noticed though, that since entering graduate school at NYU, there is less of an age gap with classmates and definitely individuals my age and older in the program. I find there is more camaraderie at NYU, than what I experienced at UNC Charlotte. There were plenty of non-traditional students at UNCC, but not in my programs which made it difficult to forge new relationships, though I did make a few friends who I keep in touch with. At NYU we seem more inclined to study and work on group projects together, probably because we are equally invested in the outcome and everyone contributes to the process. It also seems as if we all have more in common in this program, though we come from very diverse backgrounds.

I am about to begin my second and final year, which seems odd in a way. At times it has been grueling, especially this past spring semester. But the learning experience, as well as the access to events and people is priceless.

Typically four courses is the maximum per semester in my graduate program, less if you work full-time. I was accepted into two global field intensives for the summer, Russia and South Africa – hence all the recent blogs about food and travel. However, the classes began during the spring semester. I also had an unexpected move before final exams and other matters to attend to before leaving the country for a month — on two back-to-back research trips. It made for a fairly crazy semester. These short research opportunities were part of what drew me to NYU’s MSGA program, which has turned out to be a great experience and definitely the right choice as far as graduate programs.

For my trip to Russia I spent the duration in Moscow. The research focused on Russian Foreign Policy, specifically its interactions with the United States (U.S.). There were definitely those who warned me against going, some thought it was not a good time to be in Moscow as an American. For my purposes, being there in the middle of strained diplomatic relations was the perfect time because it allowed me to further unpack the Russian-U.S. relationship.

The original intent of the research was to examine the affect Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations and asylum had on Russia-U.S. diplomatic relations. Did it cause a breakdown of trust in the relationship? The goal was to delve into the crafting and implementation of Russia’s foreign policy and address whether any changes have occurred based on Snowden’s revelations, or whether it’s modus operandi for both states.

US Embassy Moscow

US Embassy Moscow

On the surface, it appeared the situation with Snowden created significant problems for Russia-U.S. relations because it forced both sides to take a stand. However, during my research in Moscow it became clear during the interview process that Snowden was less of a catalyst and more of the proverbial nail in the coffin regarding the deterioration of Russia-U.S. relations. The problems did not stem from a single event, but rather a series of what President Putin considered a lack of respect toward him and Russia. Also serious betrayals by the U.S.: NATO expansion, as well as conflicts in Libya and Syria.

 

RT

RT

 

While in Russia I had individual and group meetings; I met with academics from the Higher School of Economics, MGIMO, as well as a few individuals from the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank. I also met with numerous members of the media, including RT, Dozhd TV, Corey Flintoff from NPR, Anna Arutunyan and several other international journalists. Meetings also took place with an official at NATO in the Belgian Embassy, several individuals at the US Embassy, and with the Australian Ambassador to Russia.

 

 

MGIMO

MGIMO

 

Carnegie Center Moscow

Carnegie Center Moscow

I have always wanted to travel to Africa and most of my academic writing for the past six years has focused on a few specific countries on the continent. My undergrad thesis for political science explained the impact of xenophobia on elections in South Africa. So, I was hoping that NYU would have an African GFI during my program. South Africa was announced after I had already committed to Moscow and the dates overlapped but my department allowed me to participate in both research programs.

The research focused on South Africa’s role in representing Africa globally. South Africa views itself as the hegemon of Africa and the best choice to lead the continent to prosperity, though some leaders of other African countries disagree. My research suggested that in order for South Africa to play a more constructive role on the continent, the government must meet its own domestic economic and social demands, while also building trust with the rest of Africa.

South Africa lived up to my expectations, though depending on where we were, the stark contrasts between wealth and extreme poverty made it seems like two different countries. But I will explain those experiences in more detail in upcoming blogs.

LoveLife

LoveLife

 

We met with experts in the following areas: foreign policy, political science, economics, private sector,education and social welfare. My interview with Ms. Aditi Lalbahadur and Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari

Studies in Poverty & Inequality Institute

Studies in Poverty & Inequality Institute

from the South African Institute of International Affairs was extremely helpful in unpacking South Africa’s domestic issues, especially social concerns. Other group meetings transpired with Isobel Frye, the director of Studies in Poverty & Inequality Institute; Darrell Beghin, executive director of Credit Providers Association; Rudi Dicks, outcome facilitator for the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, South African Presidency, a subset of the South African Government office of Economics and Labor Unions in Pretoria; Neva Makgetla, deputy director-general, economic policy, government of South Africa; Reverend Mqondisi Vena of the Western Cape Provincial Council of Churches in Khayelitsha Township; Tony Leon, senior politician for the opposition during apartheid; Ruth Masokoane acting CEO of South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN); and Mokoena Mokoene from HIV youth awareness organization LoveLife.

 

Currently, I am in New York and I have two semesters left in this program. I am working on a proposal for an independent study for the fall, another proposal for my thesis (Spring 2015) and trying to acquire an internship specific to the thesis research. So even though I do not have daily classes to attend, there is still work to be completed.

I’ll be sad to leave my academic bubble next year, but I am also looking forward to re-entering the workforce and putting all this book learning to good use. It has been a great adventure so far.

 

 

 

Waylaid while traveling

Hello fellow adventurers –

My month of research and travel has come to an end. My intention had been to write a few blogs along the way and then continue sharing highlights of Russia and South Africa throughout the summer. However, I only managed to write an initial blog about Moscow before I was waylaid by what appeared to be a simple cold a few days after arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mandela Statue in Pretoria, South Africa

Mandela Statue in Pretoria, South Africa

 

After a week of running around to meetings and trying to pack in as much sightseeing as possible, I felt exhausted but it was time to hop a plane to Cape Town. We settled in to a lovely B&B called Acorn House where my situation progressively got worse. The staff at Acorn was so gracious and took wonderful care of me from the moment I arrived until they dropped me off at the airport. They even brought me a hot water bottle — it was winter in South Africa…Without their kindness and care it really would have been a miserable situation. My roommate, Juhi, was also fabulous, she never complained about my hacking up a lung and germiness.

 

V&A Warf, Cape Town  South Africa

V&A Warf, Cape Town
South Africa

I stayed at the B&B one day while my colleagues attended meetings hoping a day of rest would do the trick because the next day was a visit to a township that I was determined to go to. The next day I made the visit but knew I was not recovering. Around my fourth day in Cape Town I woke up and realized that my voice had completely disappeared and I was not going to be able to attend the scheduled meetings for my research. The owner of Acorn called her doctor and was able to make an appointment for me that day. My cold had gone into my lungs and I had laryngitis.

Back at the B&B, hopped up on steroids and not allowed to talk, I climbed back into bed to sleep. I spent the remainder of the visit on meds attending meetings but skipping out on some of the planned tourist bits in order to try and recover.

Ah, the journey home…Let’s just say the eighteen-hour, two planes and two-three hour ride in rush hour traffic from Newark into Manhattan did not help my cause. However, while sitting in the shuttle in traffic, I made an appointment with my doctor for the next day. I now have antibiotics that will hopefully wipe out the virus that has taken up residency in my body…

Researchers in Moscow

Researchers in Moscow

My longwinded point – I am now behind on finishing and submitting my research, which needs to happen over the next week. Afterwards, blogs about my research and the fabulous places I visited will resume.

Red Square, Moscow

Red Square, Moscow

Moscow at first glance

Near Red Square

Near Red Square

 

I arrived in Moscow, Russia at the end of May 2014. After being up all night on the flight, the ride into the center of the city was a bit of a blur. Luckily, two other researchers from my group were on my plane so we hopped in a taxi instead of taking the train.

GUM Department Store

GUM Department Store

It has been a long time since I’ve been in Moscow, in fact, since the 80s. Let’s just say it has changed a little. Since then, the dissolution of the Soviet Union occurred, the Cold War ended, Russia embraced capitalism, and on many levels, aligned itself with the West. More than 20 years later it appears as if ideologies are once again changing. Perhaps these patterns are cyclical, or maybe these deeply ingrained beliefs are rising to the surface in response to the perceived lack of understanding between countries.

Before I left on this trip, many people worried about my safety considering the complexity of the relationship between Russia and the U.S. But, it has been a wonderful experience so far — full of food triumphs and mishaps, adjusting to reading the Cyrillic alphabet on street signs and in the metro, shopping, taking in the sights, and interviewing people for my research. The metro is speedy with easily identifiable lines in different colors. So once you can read (or match) the station signs it’s pretty easy to get around.

GUM Department Store

GUM Department Store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The language barrier at times poses a problem because outside of academic and political circles English is not widely spoken in Russia. It took a few days to sort out how to approach my food allergy situation when attempting to order food, but then I figured out a system that typically worked in smaller groups and on my own. With that said, people are friendly and do their best to help tourists.

GUM Department Store

GUM Department Store

Overall Russians seem fairly surprised to hear us speaking English as we roam around, and also somewhat confused that Americans want to visit their country at the moment. For me, it is the perfect time to visit Moscow and experience the day-to-day life of those who inhabit this wonderful city full of stunning architecture, great food and fascinating people.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

I’ll chat more about Moscow food, tourist attractions and research in upcoming blogs.

@LoriPerkovich

Edward Snowden, Naïve Whistler-Blower or Russian Puppet for Putin’s Propaganda Machine? By Lori Perkovich

Edward Snowden, Naïve Whistler-Blower or Russian Puppet for Putin’s Propaganda Machine? By Lori Perkovich

cgamoscow2014

When it comes to Edward Snowden, two camps exist. Those who believe that he is a whistle-blower looking out for the best interests of American citizens and perhaps a little naïve, and those who believe that he is a Russian spy.

Three basic criteria exist in order to be considered a whistle-blower: materials must be proportionate to the allegations, exposure of illicit activities cannot be resolved by any other means, and public safety must be accounted for.

The number of documents Snowden compiled and stole from the NSA is estimated at 1.7 million. Out of that stockpile, only a small number focused on the domestic spying program. Did the release of the scope of U.S. surveillance program anger citizens in the U.S. and foreign leaders? Yes. Would the American people want to know that their email is monitored? Most likely; but the documents released were classified and the majority…

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Flexibility and Understanding Critical for Non-Traditional Students

In the past few years, the purpose of higher education has typically been defined by its economic and workforce outcomes. It’s seen as the best way to produce leaders, critical thinkers and entrepreneurs; it’s a way for the United States to remain competitive on a global scale. Attending university is how young adults become more open-minded, by taking humanities classes and interacting with others who have different backgrounds and beliefs. Higher education has also helped droves of unemployed non-traditional students, hit hard by the economic downturn, change ­­careers.

But that is a narrowly-focused story…

By Lori Perkovich

Flexibility and Understanding Critical for Non-Traditional Students